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Early CensusAtSchool results reveal a weighty issue

About one in five students is carting a school bag weighing 5kg or more — the same as a bag of potatoes.

The insight comes from the first 1000 students to complete the online CensusAtSchool 2009, which opened on Tuesday March 3 and runs all term. The figures would seem to back recent chiropractor concern that some young people carry heavy bags all day, risking chronic shoulder, neck and back pain.

An estimated 50,000 students aged between 10 and 18 (Year 5 to Year 13) are due to answer 35 questions about their lives in CensusAtSchool 2009. Teachers administer the 15-minute survey, available in English and Māori, in class. “The project aims to raise students’ interest in statistics as well as provide a snapshot of what they are thinking, feeling and doing,” says co-director Rachel Cunliffe, a statistics lecturer in the University of Auckland’s Department of Statistics.

In other sneak-peek results, 65% of participants said they had played online games in the week before they completed the census. Half downloaded or listened to music on line, and half downloaded or watched online videos such as YouTube, TV shows and movies. Other activities on the internet included keeping in touch with friends (58%) and school work (56%).

Young people proved themselves at ease in the online world, but it seems that the love affair with social networking site Bebo might be waning — among the first 1000 respondents, 35% had their own Bebo page, down from 48% in the last CensusAtSchool in 2007. Personal Skype access at home tallied 30%, a Facebook page 13% and a MySpace page 11%.

And if they could have super powers, girls would choose telepathy (28%) and boys the ability to travel in time (37%).

CensusAtSchool is a collaborative project involving teachers, the University of Auckland’s Department of Statistics, Statistics New Zealand and the Ministry of Education. It is part of an international effort to boost statistical capability among young people, and is carried out in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa.